The difference is in the details

Fifth Sunday of Easter – Gospel reading John 15:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower… I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”

When we prioritize our connection with Jesus, and recognize that our connection to him fuels everything worth doing, he will open our eyes to the people who need us. He will lead us to the relationships that need our attention – who in our lives needs to be lifted up, whose hand we need to hold, who needs us to listen. Because as much as we cannot do anything without him, we cannot do anything without each other. And meaningful connections with each other require paying attention to the details.

When we open ourselves up for Jesus to work through us, we can also better see where we need to focus our time. Which activities and commitments are stressing us and distracting us from the lifegiving work in our lives and the people who need our attention. When we’re overcommitted and overscheduled, there is no time for details. Life becomes a superficial and dizzying blur. We forget to look people in the eyes, we don’t have time to ask our friends how they are doing, we don’t see where we are needed.

We miss out on the details that matter. The details that make a difference.

It is the details within our relationships that fill our lives with love and meaning. When my 3-year-old came home from preschool the other day with a scribbled up picture he made for me, I noticed that it was all in yellow. He had recently learned that yellow is my favorite color, and he made sure his picture was completely yellow. He paid attention to the details. And it mattered.

A few weeks ago I had to miss my daughter’s weekly school Mass. I was disappointed, and mentioned on the way to school that I was sorry I couldn’t be there. She came home that day and told me all about the homily. She had paid particular attention so she could fill me in on everything I had missed. She paid attention to the details. And it mattered.

A couple Christmases ago a friend of ours had decided not to make the spiced almonds that I look forward to every year. I mentioned how much I had missed them. The following year, in early December, she took the time to season her almonds and gave them to our family in a carefully wrapped package. She remembered. She paid attention to the details. And it mattered.

I could go on and on with examples. The day I had a terrible day and came downstairs to find my husband patiently waiting on the couch to surprise me with my all-time favorite movie playing. The time someone I barely knew went out of their way to wish me a happy birthday. How my mother-in-law would fill her fridge with my husband’s favorite foods every time we came to visit.

When we take time to notice the details about someone else, it’s a sign that we are living selflessly – that we’re loving and living for others. Our connections to each other and the love we share is dependent on taking the time to be present with each other, and to show that we care about the things that make each other unique. When I think about the times when I’ve been most overwhelmed with love, it’s almost always the moments when someone took the time to notice something that mattered to me. It’s the littlest things (done with great love) that often make the biggest impact. And it’s the details within our relationships that make our connections strong. That make our lives full. That fill our hearts with love.

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